If you are considering a career in public administration or already work in the public sector and are trying to formulate a career path, it’s important to take stock of your current skill set. Here is an overview of 4 critical skills to be successful in public administration and achieve your career goals.
Interpersonal skills are critical in public administration as leaders in the public sector need to be able to work well with both groups and individuals. These skills are broad and can include everything from multi-cultural awareness to problem solving to negotiating.
It is important that you identify any challenging areas you have in interpersonal skills as they can be developed. However if working with multiple groups of people on multiple levels doesn’t sound appealing to you, then climbing the ladder in the public sector may not be the best path to consider.
There are many elements to leadership however 3 tend to stick out. A leader in public service needs to be able to motivate, communicate, and think. These sound very simple, however not everyone possesses these skills together. Let’s take a look at each.
Being able to motivate those within your organization is important. A leader cannot accomplish everything by their own efforts, they must have an effective team of people who work diligently. Can you identify what makes a person tick so to speak after working with them for a short period of time? Can you appeal to a group of people in a manner that will create a desire within them to accomplish an objective?
Communication is important as a leader needs to be able to articulate their perspective very clearly. This creates efficiency and an inherent level of accountability in their directives. Leaders also need to be able to listen carefully. They need to be able to have a thorough understanding of any given situation so they can properly solidify their own perspective and act accordingly.
Thinking critically is an important skill for any leader. They must be able to analyze various levels of information and perspectives, and make decisions sometimes on the fly. A great critical thinker will be able to anticipate the potential outcomes of possible solution before coming to a solid conclusion.
Management in the public sector is very different than in the private sector where the measurement of effectiveness can all be boiled down to one thing-profit. A public organization, however have other purposes, which have nothing to do with profit, such as providing services.
How their purposes are accomplished can be quite a challenge considering those purposes, the funding, and the team of people involved may have included very little of your own input. Pulling all of those factors together in a manner that still delivers the intended purpose in an efficient and ethical fashion is the art of management in the public sector.
While you don’t have to be an accountant, you certainly need to be able to work moderately well with numbers. You’ll have to be able to work with a budget, and ensure it is balanced. The true balancing act is to ensure the areas of your responsibility that need funding receive it without taking away from other critical areas.
Accounting may seem like the most simple of the four skills we have looked at, however it is the one requiring the highest level of all of the other three skills as a public manager must be able to think critically in order to make the best decisions within the limitations of a budget, motivate its employees to perform efficiently in order to stay on budget, and manage all of the resources allotted to them optimally.